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Reading Challenge 9/12



This month has been another challenging one. I've been up to my ears in Makarelle preparations, dealing with the big one starting college, the little one not wanting to go into school and our first 'close contact' with Covid, which means I'm now battling the little one to do testing every few days. Consequently, it feels like I've not done much writing (although actually when I looked at what I'd done, I'd actually written quite a bit, just not on the novel!) and reading has been a struggle at times. However, in the last few days I've found a couple of brilliant series and have gone through both of them very quickly, which makes my reading month look far better than it's actually been! I've also now crossed off several more books from the 100 list, including more of the long ones and a few I wasn't looking forward to reading, so it's not been a wholly unproductive month! I have also FINALLY finished The Complete Works of Shakespeare.


I did briefly consider the question of whether I could get to 300 books by the end of the year, but that would be a monumental feat, particularly considering I still have Bleak House to finish and I think I'll probably fall a few short, given that there's only 3 months left of the year, but we shall see how close I get.


September Book Total: 33


Overall Challenge Total: 226/150 (236 including audiobooks) and 84/100 on the BBC 100 List


Audiobooks (month/year): 0/10


September Book Reviews


Historical Fiction


A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Would never have picked this up if not for the challenge. Now unsure why I’d never heard of it before. It’s wonderful. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. The structure of it is superb. When you first meet the characters, you see mainly their flaws. When you read their backstories, you understand them more. Mistry pulls you into their lives and leaves you devastated when things go wrong for them. It’s worse when you know that although the characters are fictional, the events are not. It left me feeling bereft when I finished it, but it’s one of those books that’s worth the emotional impact.)


Crime


Murder At The House On The Hill – Victoria Walters (I wrote a full review of this yesterday – found here. Brilliant cosy crime book though.)


The Medium of Branden Bay - Kelly Mason (cosy crime novel, 1st in the series. Thoroughly enjoyable and easy read. Well developed characters and interesting plot. Will be reading the rest of the series.)


The Body in Branden Bay - Kelly Mason (second in the paranormal cosy crime series. A good follow up to Book 1 - it amazes me how much trouble Becky manages to get herself into!)


The Haunting of Branden Bay - Kelly Mason (third in the paranormal cosy crime series. This one really moves the characters forward and has some really darkly comic moments. Just frustrated now because I want to read the next one and Kelly is still writing it!)


Rose Beckingham Murder Mystery 7 Book Series - Blythe Baker (A Subtle Murder is the 1st in the series. It's a cracking opener with big hints being dropped that as well as a murder which needs solving, there is a big mystery surrounding Rose herself. Is she really who she seems? Once I'd read the first one, I had to read the rest of the series because Rose's story - independent of the individual book plots - absolutely fascinated me. They were very quick reads but each one dragged me onto the next and it felt like one big book.)


Play


Coriolanus – William Shakespeare (An interesting study in how petulance can quickly spiral out of control. I found myself getting quite cross with the characters because their behaviour was so childish.)


Titus Andronicus – William Shakespeare (The bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays. Not a favourite of mine. However does contain Henry’s favourite Shakespearean quip – ‘Thou hast undone our mother.’ ‘Villain, I have done thy mother.’ All a bit too vengeful for me, especially the ending.)


Timon of Athens – William Shakespeare (Another one where some of the characters just need to give their heads a wobble. Petulance, ingratitude, and profligacy all abound. Some Shakespeare characters need to note that just because a few people are horrible to you, it doesn’t give you the right to go around generally being a miserable git and planning genocidal revenge!)


Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare (Knew the story beforehand but was surprised at how honourably Brutus came out of the whole situation. Very accurate portrayal of the back-stabbing nature of politics and the false humility of politicians. It feels as though not much has changed in the last two thousand years!)


Antony and Cleopatra – William Shakespeare (What is it with her constant need to test him? Who thinks, ‘I know, I’ll send him a message that I’m dead just so I can see how he reacts’? And the whole ‘whip him because he flirted with my woman’ thing is just ridiculous behaviour. I found it very difficult to read without picturing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton though!)


King Lear – William Shakespeare (Made me question how good a king Lear had been to begin with if he was so easily fooled by the flattery of his elder daughters. Also wondered if their behaviour was caused by his obvious favouritism of Cordelia. Then decided I was reading too much Shakespeare if I’d started psychoanalysing the characters for fun.)


Pericles – William Shakespeare (Liked Pericles far more than Lear. Pericles says, ‘Thou art no flatterer: I thank thee for it; and heaven forbid That kings should let their ears hear their faults hid!” Lear should have listened to Pericles.)


Cymbeline – William Shakespeare (What is it with Shakespearean women being so quick to embrace death. ‘Your husband thinks you had an affair, even though you didn’t. He wants me to kill you.’ ‘Go ahead, I won’t resist.’ Really?


Romance


Fool Me Twice At Christmas – Camilla Isley (Heartwarming Christmas rom-com. Good for reading under a blanket with a hot chocolate. Full review to come on 5th October.)


High Blue Sky – Victoria Connelly (Sequel to The House In The Clouds. Enjoyed it. Full review to come on 11thOctober.)


Small Pleasures – Clare Chambers (Between The Covers. Totally loved this, especially the author explanation at the end about how the book came about. Beautiful, modern in spite of being set in the late 50s. Been waiting ages to read this and it was well worth the wait. Definitely a recommendation.)


Children


Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (This grew on me. Wasn’t that interested to begin with and then about halfway through it suddenly got more interesting. Second half was far better. Good, solid, children’s adventure story that really gets to grips with the way children think and imagine the world around them. Was very impressed with the sailing ability of the children!)


Thriller


Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith (Love the Strike books but was aware of the controversy surrounding one character in this. Personal feeling was that it was made clear that he was dressing as a woman solely for the purpose of appearing less of a threat to the women he targeted as opposed to any other motivation. I suspect if this had been by any other author it would not have been anywhere near as much of an issue. Leaving all the controversy aside, it’s a good book and if you’ve liked the rest of the series, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this latest installment.)


Women's Fiction


Love In Colour – Bolu Babalola (Between The Covers read - brilliant book which takes traditional stories and upends them to make the women the focus of the story and giving them agency over the their own lives. Definitely worth a read.)


Poetry


Poems – William Shakespeare (too long winded for my tastes and the Rape of Lucrece is victim blaming at its best. The best that can be said about Venus and Adonis is that I’ve now read the poem from which the Tower ballroom instruction of, ‘Bid me discourse and I will enchant thine ear’ comes from.)


Classics


Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (interesting examination of the troubles faced by those who do not conform to society's expectations of behaviour. Would be nice to think we've progressed as a society and become more understanding, but although our 'witch hunts' might be different in nature, they still happen unfortunately.)


Jude The Obscure - Thomas Hardy (another self-destructive love affair which seems to gloss over the awful behaviour of those involved and the impact their behaviour has on those around him. Obviously well written but flipping depressing!)


Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (was a bit of a slog to halfway through but then it got far more interesting. Sounds like it's going to be about an enduring love affair, but it's more realistic than it sounds at first. Not sure it's really love to be honest, but it was definitely interesting.)


Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (Much as I love the musical, when I tried to read the book years ago, I couldn't get further than about page 5. However, it is worth persevering with, I promise. The actual story is a really good one and it's tremendously engaging. What makes this book a challenge is all the extra bits Hugo puts in. You know the priest who gets about ten minutes of stage time? He has a whole Volume devoted to his story. Battle of Waterloo? Several chapters all about the intricate details of the battle. How much of this is relevant to the story? The final paragraph. Interested in the history of the Paris sewage system? This is the book for you! Surprisingly, I did enjoy most of it and I'm glad this challenge forced me to finally read it.)


Adventure


Ramses' Riches - Fiona Deal (I've been waiting ages to read this and it was worth the wait. I love this series and this is another excellent read. If you like Elizabeth Peters, you'll enjoy these as well.)


Ramses' Revenge - Fiona Deal (slightly darker in tone than the others in the series and with a paranormal twist that isn't present in them, but absolutely fitting with the rest of the books and Ancient Egyptian society.)


Favourite Book Of This Month?


Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers. After reading so many books that had taken me ages to read, it was lovely to pick up something that I was immediately absorbed by and I love that the author took the trouble to explain how the book came about in her notes at the end. Fantastic book that I'd probably read again.





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